So the time had finally come to leave whatsonuk. I wrote this article on holiday as I was due to leave. Unfortunately this meant that I never got a hard copy of the article and I wasn’t even creditted with it. But I was really happy to get it in there. Michael Franti is a real hero of mine and the opportunity to interview him was special. The fact that the article is so different to Blowback’s new style is rather telling. I still have the transcripts, maybe one day I’ll write it properly
Music And Politics
Michael Franti Spearhead’s a new consciousness
It’s a sweltering hot day in on the West Coast USA. In his sparse, freshly feng shui’d apartment, Michael Franti kicks back with Sly And The Family Stone on the juke box.
‘When I’m at home, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t sit and play guitar or dig through my stacks and find records that I haven’t listened to in a long time.’ Mike smiles ‘Music is part of my life everyday.’
Away from home there’s the continuous and grueling task of touring. Franti doesn’t feel it this way,
‘It’s like Bob Marley says when the music hits you, you feel no pain so it’s never hard for me to get on stage and play. ‘
Totting up almost 20 years in ‘the biz’ from Beatnigs, to Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy then Spearhead, Franti has consistently released intelligent music which hip hops across many styles linked through sharp lyrics and real love for what ever genre. Music drives him and helps him create. A few years back the none creative process of dealing with a major label, Capitol did begin to drain though,
‘I had just become frustrated with the whole corporate culture thing,’ he points out, ‘Every time you wanted to record, you had to get everyone’s okay in triplicate and have a budget. Once we built our own studio, we just started making our own stuff and it was like “Shit what do we need these guys for?”’
Boo Boo was born and a number of different distributors in different territories now put out the major releases. It doesn’t stop there though, Franti remains ever prolific and can get titles out quicker on the web,
‘I put out an acoustic album recently and another spoken word album, we just made a DVD and I’ve got a book coming out. It’s just freed us from the pressure of selling millions of records. We just do a few thousand and keep it going by that.’
The website www.spearheadvibrations.com also contains all the Spearhead bootlegs you could ever need.
‘We allow taping at all our shows, there’s a number of sites which have all our live shows to download for free. We found that doing that has helped spread the word. It’s kind of the opposite to the way major labels operate. It’s kind of like, you know, that’s our television network.’
Franti once wrote a record called Television The Drug Of The Nation, surely now a website which is like a TV network couldn’t possibly be a good thing?
‘The internet is a great place to create communities and in that way it’s different from TV.’ Mike puts on his rhyme hat ‘TV is a place, in my estimation that breeds isolation. Through the internet people have to find what they want and then you find other people who are interested. You don’t know where they’re from or what they look like, you just know that they’re into the same thing.’
Franti flips sides,
‘Now the drawback to that is that less than 1% of the worlds population is participating in what we call the “world wide web” so it’s a really serious misnomer.’
1% could still be considered a strong voice, say for example when forming a coalition, Michael concedes,
‘Before the first Iraq war there was no voice against it and today we see in one weekend we had 30 million people around the world marching. So I feel like people are more aware than they have been, in my life time at least.’
Disposable Heroes documented the Bush war I with Winter Of A Long Hot Summer, a song which is still eerily relevant for Bush War II. Bomb The World lyrics found their way onto banners of the anti-war marches, but comparing the two songs highlights the change.
‘Like I say in the song Music And Politics, music is about the expression of emotion,’ he counters, ‘music is a voice to emotions that we never knew existed. In my early days I was just expressing anger. Now I want to express this whole rainbow of emotion and I want people to feel uplifted by the music.’
Franti gets the balance just right, the new album flicks between styles with ease but each genre isn’t tokenistic but played and produced expertly, Michael smiles again,
‘I want people to think. “Today I’m going to get up and clean my bathroom and this album will help me do that” and that’s what I really try to do is create inspiring music.’
Music which everyone deserves to hear, be inspired…